If you’re the type who avoids flashy nightlife and cherishes a bit of quiet time with your morning paper, then Piero Lissoni is your patron saint. The Brianza, Italy–born, 61-year-old architect is a mainstay of the industry there, where over the decades he’s perfected a kind of elegant simplicity that’s often a stand-in for all of Italian design. It’s no wonder, since he’s the art director for seven major brands, including Boffi, Living Divani, and Porro, creating a range of products, from espresso makers and kitchen systems to sofas, as well as an architect, who designs private homes, corporate offices, and residential developments like the new Ritz-Carlton Residences in Miami Beach—all in a signature palette of contemplative neutral tones.
As modernistic as his portfolio appears, he is a traditionalist by nature, rarely seen in anything other than a somber, tailored Sant’Andrea suit. If you ask him to describe any of his projects, he won’t talk technical details. Instead, he’ll launch into a cutting diatribe about what living the good life really means in a near-stereotypical, Italian-pasta-commercial vision of yesteryear.
When asked about his latest project, in Miami, he explained how it’s an antidote to modern life’s unfortunate side effects. “I like Miami for many reasons, but I like to be there for a few days,” he said. He prefers the city’s laid-back solitude to its social scene. Perched on 71⁄2 acres of waterfront facing La Gorce Island, the Ritz is split between 111 condo units in what was once the Miami Heart Institute, eight stand-alone waterfront villas, and seven garden villas designed by Lissoni from the ground up, his first in the States.
Lissoni’s minimalist fingerprints are everywhere in each home, down to the large windows he designed with “European purity” in mind: sans the “horrible Florida frames” of hulking aluminum. The property also has 36 boat slips. “If you don’t like to drive,” he says, “you can take your Riva Aquarama”—the classic, mahogany-covered runabout you’d associate with Venice—“and move around town by boat.”
When not toiling away at his 70-strong headquarters in the central Brera neighborhood of Milan, the avowed Luddite (“I was born in another century and proud of it”) is most likely found during his downtime at his Tuscan summer house, whose architectural concepts informed the Miami project, or skiing in winter with his family in Wengen, in Switzerland, or St. Anton, in Austria. His three golden retrievers are his constant companions. (“I never live without dogs.”) To him, his life mirrors his work. “I like to combine tradition with modernity,” Lissoni says. “I offer something for contemporary life, but not in an ugly way.” The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach; theresidencesmiamibeach.com.